Tag Archives: Feasibility Studies

Lessons From the Results of the Nonprofit Feasibility Study: A Case Study

Results of the Nonprofit Feasibility StudyLast summer, I helped conduct a feasibility study for a nonprofit.  The study was geared toward understanding whether this community was willing to invest in a new building, programmatic improvements and a much needed endowment fund.  We presented the results and the answers were mixed.  The findings indicated that there was a general lack of confidence  in the leadership could achieve, a question as to whether or not the money was there and an interest in doing what it takes to increase membership—something that wasn’t being tested at the time, but was obviously top of mind.

Now, fast-forward a year.  A few people have worked extremely hard to come up with a project concept plan the community could and, in all likelihood, will invest in.  Moving forward in an aggressive and timely manner will show the community that there are leaders who are serious about the endeavor to assure  its success.

I was impressed – even I wasn’t sure they were going to gain the necessary momentum.  But listening to the results of the board’s recent retreat convinced me they would use the upcoming year to move towards the communities’ goals.   The board decided to focus on only two priorities for the coming year – the campaign (now dramatically different—stronger in focus and vision) and membership.

Listening Skills
The board had listened to the results of the feasibility study and took them to heart.  They heard what the community wanted and needed in a physical space and changed the plans, as a result. Just as important, they committed to work to increase membership and bring in the people to fill the space.

The months prior to the feasibility study were spent engaging committees on the different tenets—the core values—of the congregation and how each operating program could grow.  And while that work is being put to use in other areas, the board shifted its focus to the capital campaign and an aggressive membership retention and acquisition program.  The board heard what the members had said and acted—something that is rarely the case.

All too often the board starts heading in one direction and doesn’t know how to alter their course.  In a nonprofit looking to grow and improve there can often be many areas that need attention – so how should you decide what gets priority?  How do you choose between a pet project of a board member and a problem area that a major donor continually mentions?  We all know it is not easy.  That is why I was so impressed.

It should also be noted that reducing the board’s area of focus (generally at four to five areas for this organization) to two in the time of a capital campaign will serve them well.  And show that they understand they will be central to raising money for the campaign and keeping the momentum on track.

There are no guarantees that a capital campaign will succeed, but this organization found the way to improve its chances.

Does Your Nonprofit Need A Feasibility Study?

Does Your Nonprofit Need A Feasibility Study?Whether or not a nonprofit needs a feasibility study prior to a capital or endowment campaign is often a topic of discussion.  I have heard both schools of thought and I will try to outline both sides  for you.

Does Your Nonprofit Need A Feasibility Study?

Pros (Assuming you use a reliable consultant, like MJA, to perform the study):

  • A feasibility study shows the community you care about what they think.
  • This is the most reliable way to understand your community and whether or not they will support your proposed plan.
  • You can learn how much you can potentially raise if you keep the plan as presented.  Improving the plan based on the results of the feasibility study can enhance results.
  • Interviews conducted by people who are not an integral part of the community lead to more forthright answers and more valuable data.
  • Feasibility studies can be an essential step in major gifts solicitations for the project.
  • The nonprofit can learn areas of strength and weakness beyond the plan.
  • For organizations that overthink projects, it creates a deadline for the proposed plan to be “finalized.”  Note:  it can be a draft, concept or simply ideas but at some point you have to start showing it to people outside of the inner circle.


  • If raising the money is essential to the organization, It may not be worth spending the time and money ask about the project.  Just start moving forward on the project.
  • Limited resources should be spent on organizing the campaign and strategizing the initial individual solicitations if you have the leadership that can guide you through planning.
  • Boards are not willing to spend money upfront to find out you may not be able to raise the amount you want to raise. If you do not have confidence in the project from the start, alter the case and then determine if a feasibility study would be beneficial.
  • Questions of the process and legitimacy – how do you know if the consultants’ findings and recommendations will be on target? We can attest to our accuracy, but the board and leadership has to be willing to support the results.
  • It may take two to three months of time that could be spent raising money if you are more concerned about time than the “pros” listed above.

I’m sure there are many other reasons that a nonprofit could be for or against conducting a feasibility study but it should be said that I definitely side with the “Pro” feasibility study camp.  I have seen organizations improve their plans, increase their opportunity to exceed the goal and enhance their relationships with their stakeholders by taking the time listen, study and plan early in the process.  Like many things in life, the more you prepare, the easier the process.